Exploring new opportunities in adaptive learning in China

Updated: 2015-08-19
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The term 'adaptive learning' has been misunderstood in some cases, and misused in others. A relatively new development in education technology, especially in emerging markets such as China, some consider adaptive learning to be the application of content-mapping (the categorization of relationships between different concepts and ideas) and norm-referencing (the assessment of a performance in terms of its relationship to the larger group) to learning tools.

MIT professor Nishikant Sonwalkar has identified four domains in which modeling can be applied to develop adaptive learning tools: the pedagogical framework, where features like concept mapping can create a customized learning strategy; content rendering, where content is dynamically sequenced in response to the user's performance; quantitative learning analytics, where models are applied in order to generate data about learner performance; and intelligent feedback, where instructions and content are customized to the user's ability.
How Successful Will Adaptive Learning be in Education?
With increased technological advancements, we believe that adaptive learning has the potential to spark new paradigms in the education industry by making the learning experience more personal and customized. In the education sector, there has been a variety of adaptive learning software developed for math learning, and the technology is increasingly being applied to the development of literacy and other learning programs. Adaptive learning has been widely adopted in remedial classes with great success, as it can help target and remediate individual student weaknesses.

Adaptive learning has yet to become a main component of the core curriculum, most likely due to the fact that even in the United States only 5 to 15 percent of core curriculums are conducted online. However, as schools continue to embrace education technology and broadband access continues to become more widespread, we predict an increase in the use of adaptive learning as a primary education tool.

Barriers for Development

As a new technology, adaptive learning has faced the task of gaining approval in the education technology industry. One important challenge developers face is that adaptive learning tools may sometimes fall short of educators’ and investors’ expectations. Some experts are skeptical of current adaptive learning tools and state that the technology is not yet advanced enough to deliver a learning experience that is personal and customized. In order to deliver on its potential, adaptive learning tools will require further development of complex algorithms and modeling tools that can be used to dynamically sequence content based on the individual user’s ability and needs.

In addition, adaptive learning may face barriers due to the makeup of the education market. Even in countries like the United States, school resources and faculty willingness to integrate new technologies can vary greatly from district to district as well as school to school. This problem is compounded in developing and emerging markets, where poor infrastructure and limited internet access can restrict new technologies like adaptive learning from catching hold.

That said, with increased development, education technology is expected to become more widely implemented, which in turn will create new opportunities for the application of adaptive learning. Emerging markets like China are projected to be particularly attractive for future development.

Future Prospects

Big publishers will drive the development of adaptive learning in K12 and higher education, where adaptive learning is expected to become more pervasive as schools become more open to new education technologies.

Many publishers have already hired data scientists and pscyhometricians to develop comprehensive adaptive learning platforms to teach and evaluate higher order critical thinking. In addition, the workforce offers a lot of potential for the future development of the adaptive learning market, especially in fields that have high requirements for competency, like aviation and the financial industry.

Satoko Okamoto, Director at Emerging Strategy, comments, “Given its relatively recent introduction into the education sector and its potential to offer a highly customized learning experience, investors in education technology are encouraged to closely watch for future developments in adaptive learning. We at Emerging Strategy look forward to working with interested organizations in the future.”

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chinaexpatcn commented on 20 Jan 2017
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